Japan approves Moderna and AstraZeneca
Japan expanded a state of emergency to cover the southern island of Okinawa on Friday, as authorities approved two more coronavirus vaccines to speed a lagging inoculation campaign. Japan has vaccinated just 4.1% of its population.
The newly approved vaccines, from Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC, will join the one co-developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE in a vaccination drive that began in mid-February. AstraZeneca’s vaccine will not be used for the time being, the company said. Earlier media said the government would hold off on its use because of concerns over blood clots and bleeding in some.
For now, Pfizer’s vaccines, which need to be stored in deep freezers at minus 75 degrees Celsius, will continue to be used across the country at hospitals or venues set up by municipal governments. Moderna’s vaccines, which need to be kept at minus 20 degrees, will be given at state-run mass inoculation centres to be launched on Monday in Tokyo and Osaka, both of which will be staffed primarily by doctors and nurses from the Self-Defense Forces.
Dozens of large sites to be set up by several prefectural and municipal governments will also use the Moderna shot. AstraZeneca plans to have domestic pharmaceutical firms such as Daiichi Sankyo Co. produce at least 90 million of the 120 million contracted vaccines, which can be stored in regular refrigerators.
Japan has secured around 364 million vaccine doses, including 50 million of the Moderna vaccine through a contract with Tokyo-based Takeda Pharmaceutical, 120 million from AstraZeneca, and 194 million from Pfizer. All three vaccines require two doses.